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Small Business, You Probably Don’t Need a Website

As a web professional I was brainwashed into the idea that every business needed a website. For a while that stuck, until I began to realise that most businesses get no return on investment. And, at the same time, most web developers were adamant that their products and services didn’t require a return on investment. Which is madness. In business you pay for something that makes you money and you employ people to make you richer… you don’t buy and employ on the basis of brotherly-fucking-love.

The key phrase when you’re looking to get something done for your business on the World Wide Web is web solution. That means a web solution to your current business problem – marketing, e-commerce, data collection, something that only the web can achieve. If your prospective web developer can’t give you measurable indications of what success and failure look like in that investment then walk away.

Seriously, most small businesses can put a compass onto a map and define their universe. Why, for example, would a tradesman in this small Tasmanian town care if somebody in California accidentally opened his/her web page? Bah. And that’s the trouble, web developers are too busy selling web sites to even consider solving a real and pressing business problem using web technologies. Most developers wouldn’t know a business problem with a web solution if it hit them between the eyes – they sell something else. Internet beach towels.

The first thing that your web developer should ask is what is this business problem you’re trying to solve? Because that’s the whole point of both businesses, your business AND the web developer’s business. If you want to employ the web’s power to extend your marketing reach, or to access a wider customer base, or if you’re selling services (like web development) that can be provided over time/distance… if you’re asking for a web solution to a well defined problem then I understand why you need a web site. But that web site has to have a reason, a function, a purpose. If you have a web site, then what does it do? Why does it exist?

But if you are being convinced by a web developer that you need a web site to have a web site and that that investment in a web site will not provide you testable, tweakable, success/failure outcomes then I think you’re being conned by an industry that really doesn’t understand itself in the world of small business.

Here’s what the local tradesman who wants to grow a following in this town and this valley should do. Compass in the ground stuff:

  1. utilise social media in an effective manner – ie. relationship building, availability notification, the ability to be linked to and contacted at short notice via smart phone (do not show your politics or beliefs)
  2. Business cards to anyone and everyone you come into contact with in your daily life
  3. Fridge magnets to anyone and everyone you work for… and anyone who wants one
  4. Hoodies & tshirts with your name/business identification
  5. Think about getting that name/business identification onto your car
  6. Realise that in a small town you’re always representing your business – don’t be a tool
  7. Community notice boards are great for word of mouth marketing in a town
  8. Affordable high quality work, reliability being key to that relationship

That’s the plan to take over the universe to the distance of that compass circle around the town. One handshake at a time.

None of those things requires you to pay a web developer for a web site. And I should add, those web sites are nearly always a generic waste of resources without true business goals or objectives – a home page, an about page, a contact page, blah blah blah. If you do have a business problem to solve with web solutions then the problem should define the web solution from conception through to design and execution. Out of the box solutions are at best a cludge… at worst, lazy. Unfortunately we’re not training web developers to be business architects.

Encapsulated in this post is exactly why I ceased being a web developer. I lost faith in the people around me. I’m not saying web developers intentionally rip small businesses off, but they certainly mislead small businesses with a product/service they don’t need and at a cost they will most likely never recoup. And to web developers, I’d suggest their customers aren’t into philanthropy; your one job is to make the client richer. Understand the client’s business problem. And then solve it.

Small businesses, you probably don’t need a website. Correct. But it’s worth discussing whether or not you have a business problem that web technologies can address. The trouble is really about finding developers with the business knowledge to understand your problem.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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